Depending upon which source is believed to be correct—Social Security or the census—Johnson Vandyke “Van” Grigsby was born in either February of 1888 or February of 1886, respectively. Grigsby, the son of freed slaves, however, said March of 1885 was the month and year of his birth.

In 1900, Grigsby and his family moved from their home in Shelby County, Kentucky to Kokomo, Indiana, the county seat of Howard County. Seven years later, Grigsby, an African-American, killed a white man named James Brown. The pair had been playing a game of five card stud poker in a saloon in Anderson, IL. when the two men engaged in a fight.

During the altercation, the men, as men often do, cursed at one another. Then racial slurs were uttered. As the fracas became intensely heated, Brown pulled a knife on Van. So Van left the bar to retrieve a knife of his own. When Van returned Brown picked up a chair and threw it at him. In response, Van lunged at Brown, with his knife, and subsequently stabbed Brown to death.

Grigsby, as the story goes, plead guilty to second degree murder in order to escape the electric chair.

Convicted of second degree murder in 1908, Grigsby began a new and extremely long chapter in life when he was delivered in a horse-drawn cart to the Indiana State Penitentiary in Michigan City. The trip lasted several days.

When he arrived at the prison on August 8, 1908, the same year the four-cylinder, twenty-horsepower Model T was first offered and sold for $825, Grigsby left behind his life as a free man and became “prisoner #4045.”

Upon his release in December 1974, inmate Grigsby had served 66 long years in the penitentiary, with 50 or so of those years spent in a ward for the insane. A doctor, though, finally examined him and declared that he was “not crazy.”

In spite of being a model prisoner who passed the time by reading (and re-reading) the Bible, a dictionary, and a complete set of encyclopedias from A_Z, he’d applied for parole 33 times before finally being released.

As a free man once again, Grigsby had to adjust to life on “the outside” as someone who’d been secluded from the world for nearly seven decades. While Grigsby’s former daily life had consisted of staring at concrete and steel and barbed wire, life beyond the prison walls passed him by, and when he finally stepped outside the front gate an entirely new world was there to greet him. The stark differences were surely like the moment in the Wizard of Oz film when things instantly transformed from black and white to vivid color. There were no subtle changes.

*The Wizard of Oz premiered on the big screen in 1939, eventually making its way to television in 1956. Grigsby was behind bars for both. Judy Garland, who played Dorothy in the film, was born in 1922 and died in 1969. Her entire life and career took place during Grigsby’s period of incarceration.

In fact, during Grigsby’s time inside, he’d missed such “firsts” as …

    • The first candy apple.
    • The introduction of Skee ball (my favorite beach boardwalk arcade game).
    • The invention of gin rummy.
    • Erector sets.
    • The painting of marker lines on roadways.
    • Electric blankets.
    • The first traffic lights.
    • Fortune cookies.
    • Hamburger buns.
    • Lincoln logs.
    • Supermarkets.
    • Tow trucks.
    • Light switches.
    • Grocery bags.
    • Toasters
    • Eskimo pies.
    • Band-Aids.
    • Water skiing.
    • Bulldozers.
    • Cotton swabs.
    • Cheeseburgers.
    • Gas chamber executions.
    • Masking tape.
    • Tilt-a-Whirl.
    • Corn dogs.
    • Recliners.
    • Bubble gum.
    • Ice cube trays.
    • Reuben sandwiches.
    • Sunglasses.
    • The first frozen food.
    • Car radios.
    • Chocolate chip cookies.
    • Electric guitars.
    • Golf carts.
    • Trampolines.
    • Parking meters.
    • Stock car racing.
    • Shopping carts.
    • Beach balls.
    • Soft-serve ice cream.
    • Yield signs.
    • Twist ties.
    • Deodorant.
    • Slinkies.
    • Tupperware
    • Credit cards.
    • Cat litter
    • Hairspray.
    • Cable television
    • Frisbees.
    • Coolers.
    • Wetsuits.
    • Barcodes.
    • WD-40
    • Ziplock bags.
    • Radar guns
    • The first man on the moon.
    • The FBI was established only one month prior to Grigsby’s incarceration.
    • 13 U.S. presidents had come and gone.
    • National Anthem was adopted.
    • U.S. engagement in Korean and Vietnam Wars began and ended.
    • Alaska and Hawaii became U.S. states.
    • Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
    • President Kennedy was assassinated.
    • Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated.

Grigsby’s entire life passed by in dreary stagnation while the world continued to rapidly spin and twirl and advance in gigantic leaps and bounds. Is it any wonder that when his feet did finally hit the pavement outside he’d stepped into a world that was unrecognizable to him. By the way, the first ready-mix load of concrete was delivered in Baltimore, Md. in 1913. The Hoover Dam, made of concrete, was constructed in 1936.

It must’ve been like finding oneself on a distant planet … a new world filled with magic and awe. He most likely saw a traffic light for the first time in his life. Music and art and speech, and cars, and trains, and stores and, well, everything—all brand new and shiny and spinning and flashing and whirling and whirring.

He was a 90 year old man who was launched directly from 1908 nearly 70 years into the future, a world where he was instantly expected to adapt. But, as should have been expected, Grigsby found himself unable to cope with such drastic change and voluntarily returned to prison, where he remained for 17 additional months before he was again released. This time, though, at the age of 91, he was out for good. He ended up in the Marion County Health Care Center, though, where he found much comfort at being told when to get up, when to eat, when to bathe, and when to go to bed. This being the only way he knew to live and to survive.

Grigsby’s situation is all too familiar to many men and women who serve long periods of time behind bars. Time, people, and life pass swiftly by, leaving long-serving ex-prisoners confused and lonely and, upon their release, they find it difficult to obtain employment in a world that’s unlike the one they knew prior to incarceration.

The stigma of being a convicted felon is already a huge hurdle to overcome when job searching, but add to it the lack of modern day skills and sudden forced adjustment to the unknowns makes the effort almost insurmountable without a hand up from friends and family. Unfortunately, it’s commonplace that friends and family have long since turned their backs on the folks serving extensive prison terms. That, and decent housing and educational opportunities are often unattainable for felons.

Therefore, the exasperated former inmates often see no way to survive without returning to what they know … criminal activity.

For these people to survive as productive citizens, somewhere, somehow, sometime, someone has to offer a true second chance. They need the opportunity to hold their heads high and not hang them down in shame for the balance of their time on earth. A means to earn back their rights and to remove the “scarlet letters” from their chests.

Of course, we all realize that some of these folks will never change and prison is, without a doubt, the best place for them. But others do regret the bad choices they’ve made, and they do indeed want and welcome change.

But to forever brand former prisoners, and to not provide a support system that keeps them current with the times and technology is, well, it’s not good for them nor is it good for society.


Johnny Cash told Grigsby’s story in a song called Michigan City Howdy Do..

Police officers face many difficult challenges during the course of their careers, challenges most people would avoid at all costs. For example, exchanging a few rounds of live ammunition with a doped-up bad guy. Or how about working really long, odd hours, or the fear of losing everything you own, including your freedom, family, and possibly your life, should you make a bad decision in that fraction of a split second you have to make it.

And there’s this—the joy of being slapped, hit, punched, scratched, spit on, stabbed, cut, cursed at, having urine or feces thrown on you, puked on, bled on, wearing goofy clothing and heavy gear, and seeing people hurt, sick, and even die right front of you knowing there’s not a darn thing you can do about it.

The danger level of the job is extremely high and getting worse every day. All it takes is a couple visits to this blog on any given Friday to know how dangerous the job really is.

And then there’s the ever popular low pay, little time off, missing holiday time with your family (if you still have one), high suicide rate, alcoholism, drug abuse, fear of serious injury or death, and divorce.

Still, through all the pain and agony and odd baggage that’s attached to every police officer, there’s always someone out there who’ll agree to enter into relationships with the poor saps. And that’s a good thing, right? Well, not always, and there’s a secret I’d like to share with you, the writer. First we must address the fact that you guys don’t always get cop romances right.

Here’s why.

The Three “Romance” Categories of Fictional Cops

  1. The ones in relationships, the Hallmark movie/Nicholas Sparks-happy-ending kind of cop. Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware and  Robin Castagna come to mind, even though the partners sometimes experience and on-again-off-again sort of relationship. And there’s Faye Kellerman’s crime-solving duo Peter Decker, a lieutenant in the LAPD, and his Orthodox Jewish wife Rina Lazarus.
  2. The sad sacks who couldn’t hang on to a steady love interest if he/she were a conjoined twin. Little black dress-wearing Kinsey Millhone, bless her heart, well, the closest thing she had to a longterm relationship is with her dear landlord, 80-something Henry Pitts, a baker who spends his free time creating crossword puzzles.
  3. Then there’s the cop who’s so screwed up emotionally even mental hospitals lock their doors when they see him coming. The latter never finds true love, obviously, and remains a loner, stumbling through book after book after book. I’ll leave this one to your imaginations and personal favorites.

But there’s another kind of relationship, one that’s not really talked about in the world of fiction, and it’s definitely kept under wraps in the real world. But I’m spilling the beans, right here and right now. But you must swear to secrecy because, well … it’s a taboo topic!

We Tried to Warn Them!

Part of the exit speech we presented to new recruits leaving the police academy consisted of a few basic warnings about the potential career-ending temptations cops are sometimes faced with, like access to tons and tons of cash, drugs, alcohol, the fast life, prostitutes, abuse of power … and Badge Bunnies.

Badge bunnies? What the heck are badge bunnies? That was my reaction, too, when I first heard about them during the police academy superintendent’s “Welcome to the police officer family” speech during my last day at the police academy.

* Please don’t shoot the messenger. I’m not being sexist, just relaying some very real information. Of course this does work both ways. There are indeed male badge bunnies.

The term badge bunny is often defined as (from Urban Dictionary):

Badge Bunny: A female that goes out with only cops and firemen.

Badge Bunny: A female who enjoys “boinking” and actively pursuing sexual relationships with cops.

Badge Bunny: A female, usually of barely legal age, who spends her time chasing police officers, offering her “services” in hopes of gaining status among her badge bunny friends. (Yes, there are many cop groupies out there).

Badge Bunny Synonyms – holster sniffers, holster honeys, seat warmers, fender lizards, pig pals, beat babes. Cop wives refer to them by other names, such as whores, sluts, cause for divorce, and alimony bait.

New cops, the ones fresh out of the academy, are the officers who are most vulnerable to an attack from the vicious badge bunnies. They can’t help it, though. Recruits are young, good looking, and freshly toned from weeks and weeks of exercise and other training. They have shiny new equipment, sharply creased uniforms, tight haircuts, but more importantly, they have guns and badges! And they’re extremely naive.

Graduation day at the academy is like sending a pack of Roadrunners out into a world of Wile E. Coyotes. Badge Bunnies know the rookie’s weaknesses because they’ve studied the uniformed species for a very long time and they know how to cull the weak from the herd.

How does a badge bunny attack? They’re successful in various ways. For the sake of time and space I’ll list a few their deadly methods of operation.

  • The fake car breakdown, needing an officer’s assistance.
  • The fake prowler call, answering the door in a sexy outfit, or nothing at all.
  • The grocery store maneuver. You couldn’t reach the Special K even though you’re a good foot taller and eighty pounds heavier than the cop. Yeah, right.
  • Tapping the brake pedal repeatedly when they pass a target police car. The rookie officer sees the flashing brake lights each time the car passes his patrol car. Hmm, she must be signaling him. Is she in trouble? Or is she trouble …
  • Speeding, knowing she has all the ammo she needs to get out of the ticket.
  • Hanging out in cop bars, and gyms where cops are known to workout.
  • Hanging out in restaurants, coffee shops, etc., frequented by graveyard shift cops.
  • Hanging out at sporting events, especially softball games played by cop teams.
  • Wearing tee shirts with logos that read, I Love Cops.
  • Establishing friendships with police dispatchers for the purpose of meeting their gun-toting coworkers.

Relationships with badge bunnies rarely last. In fact most of them rarely make it into the light of day. These are secret relationships—brief meetings, encounters, and … well, I’ll leave it at that. I know, your next question is, “Since part of the attraction is the uniform and the cool cop equipment, where do they meet for the clandestine ‘encounters?'” How about  …

  • patrol cars – inside and out (lots of things to hold onto – light bars, spotlights, handcuffs…)
  • surveillance vans
  • police station warehouses and property rooms
  • department offices
  • hotels
  • small airport runways (for the deputies working the rural areas)
  • wooded areas
  • industrial parks
  • SWAT vehicles

Well, you get the idea.

Some badge bunnies keep a scorecard and move on quickly to the next guy with a gun. Sometimes, but not often, the encounters turn into lasting relationships, with kids, nice homes, cute puppies, picket fences, and everything else that comes with a solid marriage.

I offered a brief statement to the recruits I trained when I was a field training officer. It went something like this, “Keep your gun in your holster and you won’t have to worry about shooting the wrong person.” Now, there were two messages there, right? However, rookies rarely listened to the hidden meaning.

I could practically read their thoughts the second I said those words, and I knew they wanted to say to me, “Be vewy, vewy quiet. I’m hunting wabbits.”

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 11.46.03 AM

Okay, so you’re a bit concerned that you may be experiencing a bit of badge-bunnyitis? Well, if you have any two of these symptoms, you should  steer clear of all police stations until the feelings pass.

  1. Like moths to a flame, you are attracted to bright and shiny things, especially badges and guns.
  2. You prefer handcuffs and leg irons over diamond bracelets and anklets.
  3. You often speed past police cars, pull over, and “assume the position” before the officer catches up to you … even if it’s the day of your wedding … to someone else.

 

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4.  In anticipation of a pat-down, you attach your apartment key to a weapon you’ve hidden beneath your clothing.

5.   911 to you is free access to phone sex.

6.  You often initiate high speed pursuits. However, it is you who’s doing the chasing.

7  The scent of gun oil is your preferred aphrodisiac.

8.  The sounds of leather creaking and keys jingling sends your heart into pitter-patter overdrive.

9.  Blue lights and sirens = foreplay.

10.  The phrase that makes your knees turn to jelly is,“Turn around and place your hands behind your back.”

* Obviously, this piece is intended as a tongue-in-cheek look at a situation that’s very real. In this article, though, I’m only referring to the bad bunnies—the scorekeepers. However, please know there are plenty of folks who are simply attracted to a certain kind of person, especially the men and women whose career choice includes wearing a uniform as part of their means to earn a living, and they are wonderful people who have wonderful, loving, meaningful and lasting relationships. The others, well …


For over a dozen years, the Writers’ Police Academy (WPA) has delivered scores of outstanding workshops, classes, presentations, live demonstrations, and actual hands-on training, all taught by some of the county’s top experts. We’ve also offered MurderCon, a special event, both as an in-person event and virtually. In addition, in 2020 we launched Writers’ Police Academy Online, a series of live, interactive daylong seminars featuring acclaimed experts and well-known bestselling authors.

Our advertising campaign typically consists of word of mouth, an annual (inexpensive) ad on the site “ShawGuides,” and through the use of Facebook promotion—a simple $100 ad prior to the opening of each registration. Since so many writers have a presence on social media advertising on Facebook was an obvious choice to reach our target audience and we’ve done so for years, including advertising the January 2021 seminar. That, and we do all that we can to keep expenses to a bare minimum in order to offer low registration fees.

As many of you know, the WPA exists solely to help writers and, in doing so we’ve always maintained a neutral environment about politics, race, religion, gender, sexual preferences, etc.

Needless to say, I was shocked when Facebook rejected the ad I submitted yesterday for the upcoming February 27 seminar “Search Dogs, Search Warrants, a Search for Words, and Lies.” I immediately appealed but the ad was again instantly rejected. I even re-designed the ad, but no luck. Another rejection. Their final message to me was that the ad was rejected because it includes “Social Issues, Elections or Politics.” Now that was puzzling. I’d already had to stop using our logo, the “gun/pencil” because it was deemed as offensive to some and portrayed violence.

The situation is extremely frustrating for a couple of reasons—we can’t advertise the event in time for the February 27 seminar, and there’s no means to speak with anyone at Facebook who could explain what it is that’s offensive about the ad pictured below.

So I need your help, please, to spread the word about this fabulous, unique event. The lineup of classes and instructors is superb. If you will, share it on social media, tell your friends, announce it at your writer groups, etc. It’s okay to post and share. I’m just not permitted to purchase an ad for the event.

Here are the full details, and I thank you in advance for your support!

“Search Dogs, Search Warrants, a Search for Words, and Lies”

 

When: February 27, 2021

 

This daylong live and interactive seminar features three renowned professionals who will share intimate knowledge of K-9 search and rescues and the recovery of human remains; laws and procedures governing search warrants, pursuits, and police use of force; how detectives use the words of suspects and witnesses—nouns, pronouns, extra words, missing words—to detect deception or hidden information.

At the end of day international bestselling author Heather Graham presents a dynamic workshop on the craft of writing titled “It’s All in the Words.”

Instructors include Carrie Stuart Parks, Sheri Lewis Wohl, Wisconsin Judge Kevin Rathburn, and the fabulous Heather Graham Pozzessere!

Registration is officially open. Reserve your seat today!

https://writerspoliceacademy.online

February 27, 2021 – $99

Three renowned professionals share intimate knowledge of K-9 search and rescues and the recovery of human remains; laws and procedures governing search warrants, pursuits, and police use of force; how detectives use the words of suspects and witnesses—nouns, pronouns, extra words, missing words—to detect deception or hidden information.

At the end of this daylong, live and interactive seminar, international bestselling author Heather Graham presents a dynamic workshop on the craft of writing titled “It’s All in the Words.”

Schedule (Times are EST)

10:30 – Login and Test
10:45 – Welcome

11:00 – 12:20

Search Warrants, Pursuits, and Police Use of Force

This course will describe the general legal standards for the use of force by police such as warrants, including anticipatory, knock, and No Knock, warrants and pursuits. Instructor, Kevin Rathburn

12:20 – 12:50

Break

12:50 – 2:10

More than the Nose: K9 Search Teams in the 21st Century

K9 Search Teams in the 21st Century is a journey into the world of canine search teams. What does it take to be field ready? What makes a good search dog? Learn the difference between what it looks like on TV and what it’s really like out in the field. Learn how and why it’s changing from search and rescue volunteers to unpaid professionals. Instructor Sheri Wohl

2:20 – 3:40

Don’t LIE to Me!

Law enforcement uses numerous tools to identify deception in witnesses and suspects, depending on their background and training. Learn one of the more unique skill sets in recognizing deception through language–by reviewing the written statements. Understand how the very nouns, pronouns, extra words, missing words, and other clues alert detectives to deception or hidden information. Add richness and depth to your writing by utilizing and weaving content statement analysis into your manuscripts. Instructor, Carrie Stuart Parks

3:50 – 5:10

“It’s all in the Words”

A dynamic workshop on the craft of writing taught by one of the all-time great authors of suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult, and Christmas family fare. Instructor, Heather Graham

5:10

Final words


Instructor Bios:

Carrie Stuart Parks is an award-winning, internationally known forensic artist. She travels across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement professionals including the FBI, Secret Service, and RCMP, and is the largest instructor of forensic art in the world. Her best-selling novels in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre have garnered numerous awards including several Carols, Inspys, the Christy, Golden Scroll, Maxwell, and Wright. As a professional fine artist, she has written and illustrated best-selling art books for North Light Publishers.

 


Sheri Lewis Wohl is a 30-year veteran of the federal judiciary, a search and rescue K9 handler, and the author of more than fifteen novels, several of which feature search dogs. She is a field ready member of search and rescue in Eastern Washington and for the last nine years, has been a human remains detection K9 handler deployed on missions throughout Washington, Idaho, and Montana.

Sheri has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Communications from Eastern Washington University and a Master’s degree in Literature from California State University, Dominguez Hills.

 

 

 


 

Kevin Rathburn became a full-time faculty member at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in 2000 after serving as an adjunct instructor for nine years. Prior to that, Mr. Rathburn served for ten years as an Assistant District Attorney for Brown County in Green Bay, Wisconsin. In 2004, Mr. Rathburn became Municipal Judge for the Village of Suamico. Mr. Rathburn holds BAs in political science and economics from St. Norbert College (1987) and a JD from Marquette University Law School (1990).

While in Law school, Mr. Rathburn served as a law clerk to several Milwaukee Circuit Court Judges handling civil and criminal matters and the appeal of cases from local boards and municipal court in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He also completed an internship in public sector labor law with the law firm of Mulcahy and Wherry and an internship with Blue Cross & Blue Shield Insurance Company.

Mr. Rathburn is a State Certified Instructor for the Wisconsin Technical College System. He is also certified by the Department of Justice, Training and Standards Board in the areas of Child Maltreatment, Constitutional Law, Corrections Law, Courts and Jurisdiction, Criminal Law, Introduction to Criminal Justice, Criminology, Domestic Violence, Ethics in Criminal Justice, Interviews and Interrogation, Juvenile Law, Report Writing, Sexual Assault and Sensitive Crimes. Mr. Rathburn recently helped create Constitutional Law and Juvenile Law Manuals and update the Criminal Law Manual for the WI. Dept. of Justice, Training and Standards Bureau.

Mr. Rathburn has been a member of the Department of Justice Legal Context Advisory Committee since 2005. He has also served as a Commissioner on the Governor’s Commission on School Violence and the Governor’s Juvenile Justice Commission. He is a past member of the Brown County Youth Aids Committee, Brown County Council on Child Sexual Abuse, Brown County Subcommittee on Underage Drinking, Brown County Consortium on Dysfunctional Families and St. Vincent Hospital’s Child Health Team.

Since 1991 Mr. Rathburn has made presentations on a wide variety of legal topics at numerous conferences including the Wisconsin Jail Association, Wisconsin Juvenile Officers and Juvenile Intake Workers, the State of Wisconsin DARE Officers Association, the Wisconsin LETAO, the Wisconsin Criminal Justice Instructors, the Wisconsin Arson Investigators and the Wisconsin Criminal Investigator’s Association. Mr. Rathburn frequently provides legal updates for law enforcement and correction agencies. He has also provided in-service training for Unified Tactical instructors, administrators, corrections officers, dispatchers and casino security staff.

Since 2007, Mr. Rathburn has been a frequent speaker for the State Supreme Court in its training of Municipal Judges and Court Clerks. Since 2012 Mr. Rathburn has provided Basic Intake Training for Juvenile Intake Workers throughout Wisconsin. He is a trainer for the Wisconsin Child Welfare Professional Development system. Since 2016 Mr. Rathburn has been a featured presenter at the annual Writer’s Police Academy. He recently completed work with James Patterson and Maxine Paetro on a crime novel (The 17th Suspect). He has also presented to officers from England and the Caribbean Islands on multiple occasions in recent years.

In 1994, Mr. Rathburn received the Optimist Law Award for his contribution to the legal field. He also received an Outstanding Teacher Award in 2004, 2005, & 2006 from Who’s Who Among Teachers in American Universities & Colleges and from Who’s Who in Collegiate Faculty in 2007 and 2008. In 2017-18 he was included in Who’s Who in Technical College Faculty. In 2019, Mr. Rathburn received the Excellence in Teaching Award from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

Mr. Rathburn says his family is the most important part of his life. He spends as much time as possible with his wife, Beth, and their three sons, Sam, Jack, and Ben. He enjoys landscaping, gardening and walks with Beth and their dog Sophie. He spends many of his late evening hours reading and writing on legal topics. He also likes reading espionage or mystery novels and watching movies; especially westerns. He is an avid Packers fan and enjoys following the Badgers, Brewers, and Bucks


 

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Heather Graham, majored in theater arts at the University of South Florida. After a stint of several years in dinner theater, back-up vocals, and bartending, she stayed home after the birth of her third child and began to write. Her first book was with Dell, and since then, she has written over two hundred novels and novellas including category, suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult, sci-fi, young adult, and Christmas family fare.

She is pleased to have been published in approximately twenty-five languages. She has written over 200 novels and has 60 million books in print. Heather has been honored with awards from booksellers and writers’ organizations for excellence in her work, and she is the proud to be a recipient of the Silver Bullet from Thriller Writers and was awarded the prestigious Thriller Master Award in 2016. She is also a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from RWA. Heather has had books selected for the Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild, and has been quoted, interviewed, or featured in such publications as The Nation, Redbook, Mystery Book Club, People and USA Today and appeared on many newscasts including Today, Entertainment Tonight and local television.

Heather loves travel and anything that has to do with the water, and is a certified scuba diver. She also loves ballroom dancing. Each year she hosts a Vampire Ball and Dinner theater raising money for the Pediatric Aids Society and in 2006 she hosted the first Writers for New Orleans Workshop to benefit the stricken Gulf Region. She is also the founder of “The Slush Pile

Players,” presenting something that’s “almost like entertainment” for various conferences and benefits. Married since high school graduation and the mother of five, her greatest love in life remains her family, but she also believes her career has been an incredible gift, and she is grateful every day to be doing something that she loves so very much for a living.


 

www.writerspoliceacademy.online

 

There’s a current PC craze that’s attacking practically everything on the planet, from condemning anti-animal language to the lyrics of Christmas songs,. Even certain colorings of cartoon vegetables is taboo. So let’s poke around to see if we can find a few more horrible examples of politically incorrectness, such as those terribly insensitive and offensive Christmas tunes.

Starting with …

“I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas”

This lively tune opens with a discriminatory tone that’s sure to send other animals scurrying to their safe spaces. Here, see for yourself.

“I want a hippopotamus for Christmas
Only a hippopotamus will do.”

That’s blatant and out and out discrimination toward all other animals. And it only gets worse.

“Only a hippopotamus will do
No crocodiles, no rhinosaurus
I only likes hippopotamuses [sic]
And hippopotamuses [sic] like me, too.”

I see this one ending up in civil court where a softy judge will immediately order that crocs and rhinos also “will do.”


“Silver Bells” 

This song discriminates against the folks who live in rural areas. It’s also bullying to those who don’t have access to “holiday style” attire.

“City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style”

Next, OMG, what about the feelings of grumpy people who don’t like smiling. Their right to frown as they wish have most certainly been trampled upon in this blatantly derogatory song.

“In the air
There’s a feeling
of Christmas
Children laughing
People passing
Meeting smile after smile
And on ev’ry street corner you’ll hear.”


“The Christmas Song”
Lyrics by Mel Torme

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose.”

Not fair. Not fair. Not fair. Jill Frost loves to nip at noses just as much as Jack. Why no mention of her playful nose-nibbling.

And, Mr. Mel Torme, what about the good folks over the age of 92 who’re now actively enjoying the one or two holiday songs left that we’re able to hear on our radios? Obvious age discrimination. Shame, shame and double shame.

“And so, I’m offering this
Simple phrase to kids from
One to ninety-two
Altho’ it’s been said many times
Many ways; “Merry Christmas to you”

Speaking of Mel Torme, dod you know he played drums? Well …


“We Wish You A Merry Christmas”

This one is appalling. What about bread and rice puddings? Why is figgy pudding given the nod in this popular tune? The dessert menu should be inclusive. Whomever is hiding behind the name “We” must be publicly shamed on social media. Dox them one and all!

“We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Good tidings we bring to you and your kin;
Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer.”


“Up on the Housetop”
B.R. Hanby

Two words.

Concealed. Carry.

“Up on the housetop reindeer pause
Out jumps good old Santa Claus
Down thru the chimney with lots of toys
All for the little ones
Christmas joys” 

Climb down Onion Jenkins’ chimney if you want, but you can count on ole Onion to pop a cap in your red-suited rear end. Besides, it’s age discrimination to brings gifts to kids but not to the grown folks. And hey, why’re you bringing gifts to Onion’s kids, anyway? You don’t know them, you perv.


“Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”
Irish Rovers

Here’s the one that sends me over the edge. This song is flat out evil, from promoting violence and death to outing poor grandma’s drinking problem. They even went so far as to call her out for her addiction to prescription medication. Yes, instead of helping the poor and pitiful old woman seek help for her medical issues, they sent her out into the snowy night where she was run down and killed by a careless reindeer.

“Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walking home from our house Christmas eve.
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa,
But as for me and Grandpa, we believe.

She’d been drinkin’ too much egg nog,
And we’d begged her not to go.
But she’d left her medication,
So she stumbled out the door into the snow.”

To add insult to injury, knowing her state of mind and level of intoxication, they didn’t bother to check on grandma until the next morning when they found her trampled and frozen corpse mashed into a snowbank.

“When they found her Christmas mornin’,
At the scene of the attack.
There were hoof prints on her forehead,
And incriminatin’ Claus marks on her back.”

Next we see Grandpa enter the picture. Doesn’t care a wit that his wife’s dead body is in a crumpled heap out on the front lawn, covered in snow with deer prints stamped into her skull. Instead, he’s partying with his cousin, Belle, the family “ho, ho, ho.” Now, I’m not one to spread gossip, but I’m thinking the perfect stocking stuffer for both Grandpa and Belle would be a couple of cans of Acme Incest Repellent. I’m just sayin’.

“Now were all so proud of Grandpa,
He’s been takin’ this so well.
See him in there watchin’ football,
Drinkin’ beer and playin’ cards with cousin Belle.”


*This article is entirely non-PC and is intended as a tongue-in-cheek bit of weird humor. No hippos or grandmas were harmed during today’s writing. Cousin Belle and Grandpa, however, were immediately transported to the nearest Acme Rehab Center for Incestaholics.


Merry Christmas to all from Denene and Me. We hope to you at a Writers’ Police Academy event very soon. In the meantime …

Please stay safe. Enjoy time with your family. And hug your kids.

Don't call a plumber

Have you ever called a plumber to fix a leaky water pipe in your kitchen, and when he arrived you told him not to use his tools and training to repair the problem?

Well, consider the person who did just that, telling the plumber who responded to her call for help, “I know it’s probably the worst leak you’ve ever seen. Dangerous, actually. But,” she continued with a few batts of her  mail-order eyelashes. “Can’t you just talk to my pipe? I’m sure it’ll simply fix itself if you talk nicely to it.”

Meanwhile, both she and the plumber were soaked to the gills. The steadily rising water filled the house until it finally burst through the front door. Torrents of roiling and boiling whitewater rushed down the front steps like the falls on Flat Rock Pond. Kids used metal garbage can lids as kayaks in the lawn lake. The woman’s dog somehow managed to climb onto the roof and her goldfish were jumping like dolphins in the wake trailing the trash can tops. It was outright chaos, and it all happened within a blink of an eye.

“No, ma’am,” said the plumber. “Talkin’ ain’t gonna git it done this time. I’ve already been here three times this weekend—”

“But, I love my pipes,” she said. “They’re good pipes. Please try talking to them. Just once more …”

Her tears dropped into the knee-deep pond that swirled and twirled and bubbled around her legs like a Bermuda Triangle whirlpool. The once tiny leak was then gushing like a geyser that would shame Old Faithful.

But the master of cold on the right, hot on the left, and the yucky stuff don’t run uphill, knew there’s no other way. They’d both drown if he didn’t do something. So he reached into his tool bag and came out with “Big Red,” the best 24-inch pipe wrench Sears and Roebuck had ever sold on clearance. He swallowed hard once and then turned to face the trouble.

This is what he was trained to do and he reacted without fear or hesitation. A quick side-step, a firm grasp on the valve with his left hand, a lightning fast strike with the wrench, and it was over. The chaos ceased and his adrenaline level subsided. He took a deep breath. Then …

“MY BABY!” shouted the woman. “You hurt my baby!”

Sound silly? Well, hold on a second. Police officers face similar circumstances nearly every day of their lives. People who are in danger at the hand of loved ones call 911 begging for help. They fear physical harm and/or death. They’re scared for their family members.

Sometimes they’re so distraught you can almost smell the fright over the phone lines. But, when the boys and girls in blue come sliding to a stop in the driveway, with lights winking and blinking and sirens squalling and wailing, well, this is what they often encounter, starting with the initial call for help.

“911, do you have an emergency?”

“Help me! Little Johnny has a gun and he’s been pointing it me and Jimmy Billy. Twern’t loaded at first but now it is and he done lost his what little sense he had. He ain’t taken his crazy medicine in pert’near a week. I’m skeert for our lives. And Maw ain’t here to talk to him.”

“I’m sending someone right away.”

“Good. We’s all locked in the bathroom now, ’cause that little bastard’s a shootin’ up the place. He’s teched in the haid, I tell you. Gets it from my wife’s side of the family. They’s all one seed short of makin’ a whole watermelon.”

BANG! BANG!

“Thar he goes agin. Please hurry!”

“Sir, stay on the line. Officers are on their way.”

“Yes, ma’am. Got nothin’ else to do but duck.”

Three officers arrive and they’re met by Little Petey Paul who’s made his way outside and is standing in the gravel driveway holding his father’s old revolver.

Keep in mind, though, that the Little Petey Pauls of the world never seem to be small in stature. They’re typically 6’2″, 235, foaming at the mouth, with both eyes are spinning like tops. And, of course, they’re shirtless, barefoot, and highly UN-medicated.

As always, this is the time when dear old Maw comes driving up in family pickup truck, a 4×4 with a gun rack in the rear window and a sticker on the bumper that reads, DRIVER CARRIES NO CASH, JUST A BULLET FOR YOUR ASS!

The family matriarch jumps out of the truck and tosses the remainder of her non-filtered cigarette into a pile of empty beer cans beside the plywood cutout of granny bending over in the flower garden. One officer goes to meet her, keeping her out of harm’s way.

Other officers draw their weapons and order the human anvil to drop his handgun. Instead, the human stump points the .357 at the officers. He grinning like the possum the family had for supper the night before. The lead officer starts talking.

“Please put down the gun, son. We just want to help you. Everything’s gonna be okay. I promise.”

“Don’t you hurt my baby boy!” Maw screams” He’s a good boy. Just talk to him.”

Little Petey Paul licks the barrel of the pistol, then holds it against his head. Spittle dribbles down his chin. He’s crying. His teeth clench together like the jaws of a vise.

Maw tries to push her way past the officer. “Assholes. Let me go. That’s my baby. Just talk to him. Put those guns away! You’re gonna hurt my precious little boy!”

Little Petey Paul quickly points the gun at Maw. “You bitch. Wouldn’t gimme no money for beer. I’m gonna kill you dead right here and now!”

The gun goes off.

Two shots.

BANG! BANG!

The officers have no choice. Each of them fired a couple of rounds. A second later, Little Petey Paul lies dead in the dirt and gravel with four small bullet holes marking his flesh. The officers each feel that sudden drop of adrenaline followed by the sinking, sickening, gut-wrenching sensation that comes with taking the life of another human. The second-guessing begins immediately. Their lives are forever changed, and not for the better. Possibly ruined.

“My little baby! Why didn’t you just talk to him. You didn’t have to kill him!” Maw screams, and then begins punching, kicking, and clawing at the officer’s face. The rest of the clan pours out of the house—Pa, Andy, Sandy, Randy, Candy, Tandy, Mandy, Handy, Pandy, and Earl, Jr. They’re screaming and struggling with the officers. Back up arrives to help quell the escalating disturbance.

“All you had to do is talk to the boy,” Pa says. “Maw knowed how to handle him. Talk to ’em is all you had to do … He’s such a good boy.”

I guess the point to ponder here is, well, don’t call a plumber if you don’t want your leak fixed.

Dreams and even nightmares are often great fodder for a story or scene. Sometimes, though, those nocturnal fantasies are absolutely bizarre and offer no help whatsoever. Not even a tiny twist for an ending.

A questionable murder (above image), to say the least, is a perfect example of the gaggle of “punctual” characters who, for some reason, show up in my mind from time to time. However, these guys often come to me while my eyes are open and I’m wide-freakin-awake. Yep, my brain is a weird one. So are the things found inside my ever-working twisted mind. Such as …
 

The renowned 100-yard Em Dash

The em dash is perhaps the most versatile of all punctuation marks.


 

Whatcha’ gonna do ’bout the puppies?

Colon owners consider semi-colons as mixed breeds, therefore they prefer to keep the two apart. This is to prevent an unfortunate encounter that could result in large litters of periods and commas.

Unfortunate encounters produce large litters of periods and commas.


 

Do you have your ellipses glasses?

Punctuation marks have been known (in my mind) to join together to wreak havoc on the weather.

Periods, in teams of three, attack the sun.


 

Braces for Junior

Braces are also known as curly brackets “{ }”.


 

Quotation Marks have places to go!

Commas and periods always go inside the quotation marks in American English; dashes, colons, and semicolons almost always go outside the quotation marks; question marks and exclamation marks sometimes go inside, sometimes stay outside. ~ Grammerly

 
Stop Shouting

In my mind, everyone gets to speak, and to ask questions, without being shouted down. Everyone …


 

Too many questions …

 

Cops truly see and experience the odd, weird, and often dark side of society, and this experience is not limited to dealing with criminals and all the lovely things bad guys offer their communities. For example:

  • The preacher who killed his lover, a woman married to another man. The reverend shot her dead because because she was sleeping with another man, a fellow who was also not her husband. During the fit of jealous rage the murdering minister also killed the “other man.”
  • While checking what was thought to be an abandoned vehicle parked at the end of a deserted, cracked asphalt stretch of dead-end country road, a deputy was surprised when he discovered a local government mental health professional inside the car engaged in frantic sexual activity with a young girl under the age of 17. One of the official duties of the professional person was to counsel victims of sexual abuse.
  • A 911 call from an area by-the-hour motel led law enforcement officers to a room rented by a known prostitute. She dialed the police when her “client” began to get a bit too rough for her liking. The client was a prominent business leader who also taught Sunday School at his church.
  • A probation officer was shot to death when he was caught having sex with a probationer’s girlfriend. The recently released offender arrived home early from work, discovered the pair in bed, and then quickly grabbed a gun and proceeded to fire rounds at the man who was in charge of his supervised release. Well, the shooter’s aim was pretty good because he shot the nude man in the back as he climbed out of the couple’s bedroom window with his clothing in hand.

The probation officer managed to stumble a few steps before collapsing onto the sidewalk. When police arrived they found the probation officer’s naked body curled in a fetal position. Lying next to him were his clothing, including the shiny badge that was still attached to his belt.

  • While working graveyard shift, an officer parked his patrol car on a side street where he began to complete a bit of paperwork. While there he witnessed a state law enforcement agent park his government vehicle in a dark area of a neighborhood. The agent opened the car door and shut is slowly and quietly and then trotted to the side door of a house. The door opened and a woman let him inside. The woman was the wife of a corrections officer who worked night shift at a prison. The agent’s wife who was most likely at home asleep, had no idea that her husband was cheating with one of her friends.
  • While running radar late at night on a lonely stretch of highway, an officer stopped a car that was swerving from side to side. When the officer had a look inside the vehicle he saw that the male driver wore a corrections uniform.  His passenger, a totally nude (male), was handcuffed to the car door. His corrections uniform was on the backseat in a crumpled pile. The pair of COs said they were merely out for a late night, relaxing drive to unwind after finishing their shift at the prison.
20 things bad guys

Bad guys say the darndest things, especially when operating their mouth parts while under the influence of alcohol, coke, or meth. Here are some of the things the little darlings said to me over the years. Use your imagination to determine my response(s).

1. “Pepper spray me. Go ahead, I dare you. Spray me.”

2. “I’ll kill your family.”

3. “I know where you live.”

4. “You think you’re man enough?” … “You’re breaking my arm! Ouch! Ouch! I give up! Ouch!”

5. “I’m not getting out of my car, and you can’t make me.”

Well, I could, and I did. For details, please read my article, “It’s Christmas, So Let’s Pull a Fat Guy Through a Car Window.”

6. “I’ve got a gun.”

7. “You’re not big enough to put me in that police car.”

8. “Don’t put your hands on me.”

9. “You won’t live long enough to put those handcuffs on me, you son of a bit**h” Twenty minutes later … “Could you please please loosen these cuffs? They’re hurting my wrists.”

10. As he rips off his shirt and flexes, while backing up … “You don’t want none of this.”

“You don’t want none of this!”

11. “If I ever catch you out of uniform, I’ll …”

12. “Does your dog bite? AHHHHH!! Get him off! Get him off!!

13. “If you think that fancy nightstick will stop me, th…”

14. “Yeah, what are you going to do if you catch me?”

15. “You’re going to have to come in and get me.”

16. “I’m not scared of you or your dog. I don’t care if it is a rottweiler.

17. “You can’t arrest me. I play golf with your boss.”

18. “You can’t prove none of that.”

19. “I’m glad you’re the one who caught me. We’re friends, right?”

20. While working undercover narcotics. You have to tell the truth when I ask if you’re a cop, right?”

The list, my friends, is endless. As is the stupidity of many.

 

I wrote this back in October of 2016, long before I knew of today’s turbulent times. Who knew …

You and I

We grew up together, you and I.

I attended kindergarten with you and your friends.

I played football and freeze tag and hide and seek with you and your cousins.

We were like family.

We hung out together at the drug store, reading comic books and eating ice cream cones.

I was at your sixteenth birthday party and you were at mine.

You and I and our friends had a blast at the prom.

I remember when your brother joined the military and went off to war.

I was there when the news came that he wouldn’t be returning home.

I sat with you on the front porch, listening as you remembered the good old days.

You cried and I never told anyone that you did.

We went away to college and remained friends, even though we were many miles apart.

You and I both married our childhood sweethearts.

You went to work for a big company.

You mom died and I traveled a long ways to be by your side.

Because that’s what we did, you and I.

My father passed away and you were there for me.

After college you returned and went to work for a big company.

I became a cop.

Then you hated me.

Why?

Was it because of my uniform?

My gun?

That my job was to enforce the law?

I didn’t make the rules.

Heck, I don’t even like some of them.

But it’s my job.

Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t like several of your company’s products and rules and policies.

But when one of your coworkers tells me to not touch something or that I may not go “out” the “in” door, I listen and do as asked.

But, even when I don’t agree with your company’s rules I don’t throw rocks at you and your fellow employees.

I don’t run to social media and post despicable things about you and your family.

I don’t write that you and your wife and kids should all die.

I don’t encourage the world to attack you.

I don’t go to your parking lot and overturn and set fire to your cars.

I don’t shoot at you, or punch and kick or spit on you.

I don’t kill your friends simply because of the suits they wear, or because one of your office mates did something despicably wrong.

I don’t trap you and your coworkers inside your office building and then set fire to the place because a heartless guy on the opposite side of the country killed a man.

I don’t toss deadly explosives at you and your fellow work mates simply because of your choice of employment, or because I disagree with the rules.

No, I didn’t make the rules. Not a single one of them.

I’m just a guy doing a job, a job I happen to love.

The vast majority of the laws of our country were in place long before I first pinned a badge to my shirt.

I’m still the same guy you hung out with in high school.

I’m still the same guy who drove you home from the party after you’d had one too many drinks.

I’m still the same guy who played catch with you in my front yard for hours on Saturday afternoons.

I’m still the same guy who made you laugh with my Daffy Duck imitations.

I’m still the guy who stood beside you the day you married the love of your life.

Why did “you and I” become “you against me?”

What happened?

And why?

Because I’m still the same guy.

I just happen to wear a uniform when I go to work.

I’m a cop and I love my job and I still help people, even when they hate me.

I still help people while dodging those rocks, bottles, bullets, and insults.

I still think about the days when we were close.

And I’ll still come if you call.

Even though you hate me,

Merely because I’m a cop.

We’re still the same guys.

Who wear a different set of clothes.

Inside, though,

It’s us …

Guys who were once best friends,

You and I.

Due to a a couple of serious illnesses in our family, I will be taking a break from the blog for a few days and maybe slightly longer. I’ve tried to write something for the past couple of days but my mind wanders back to our loved ones, Denene’s mother and Ellen, our daughter.

As many of you know, they were each diagnosed with serious cancer just weeks apart  approximately three years ago. Denene’s mom has been receiving chemo for the entire three years, along with a couple of emergency surgeries. Three weeks ago she was rushed to a Raleigh hospital where she underwent another surgery. She has been extremely ill since and has had to pause her much-needed chemo treatments.

We’d hoped to travel there to visit with her for a few days, but COVID concerns have not made it possible for us to do so. She’s ill and I take medication that greatly suppresses my immune system. Denene and I have not left our property since March, with the exception of a very brief ride in he countryside just to see civilization again.

Then the big whammy hit this week. Ellen called me one night to say she was experiencing severe abdominal pains so her husband was taking her to the ER. There or four hours later she texted a message to me that sent my heart to the floor. Her cancer had returned and it was far worse than before.

I Am Crushed. Numb. Heartbroken. Devastated. And Helpless.

So please forgive me for neglecting this blog, MurderCon, responses to emails, etc. I need time to process, to hold back tears and even to shed a few, and to pray for our daughter and my mother-in law. My thoughts are scattered and bounce around inside my head like rubber balls. Emotions are all over the place.

It’s not been a good year for any of us, and I feel quite selfish for just days ago hoping to see enough Virtual MurderCon registrations to save the event from sinking lower than the Titanic. Right now, well, my mind is on the pain I heard in my daughter’s voice when I spoke with her by phone this afternoon.

Ellen had beaten the odds before, after enduring emergency life-saving surgeries and chemo and radiation, sickness, hair loss, extreme pain, memory loss, and more, and then their home was totally destroyed by fire not long after she rang the bell celebrating her last chemo treatment. They lost everything they owned, but thanks to many of you they pulled themselves together and found and fixed up a small home. Then, Ellen’s husband lost his job due to COVID restrictions.

Your generosity and kindness has much appreciated and needed.

Tyler, our grandson, is scheduled to head to college in three weeks, a few days after his mom sits to receive the first of many aggressive chemo treatments, and radiation. It’s tough enough to start college without having such a huge weight resting on his shoulders. He’s a remarkable young man who, during all the hardships he faced, continued to maintain his grades and compete as a champion wrestler who earned his pick of scholarships at colleges around the country.

Anyway, this where I am right now, wandering around aimlessly and unable to concentrate. I humbly ask that you please stick with me. I’ll return here as often as I’m able.

In the meantime, kind thoughts, prayers, and well-wishes are appreciated.

Thank you,

Lee

Fighting Dinosaurs

Graduating from the police academy is an experience all its own. And, after many weeks of what some recruits equate to a brief period of time spent in hell on earth, receiving the paper that makes it official, that you are indeed a bona-fide law enforcement officer is nothing short of a warm and fuzzy kind of moment.

There’s a huge amount of pride attached to the actual ceremony, as well as a great sense of accomplishment. Make no mistake about it, police academy training, while fun at times, can be extremely stressful, and taxing on muscles and mind. Therefore, when you’re finally holding paper in-hand and a shiny badge tightly pinned to your shirt, all you want to do is Par-Tay! And that’s exactly what I and my fellow recruits had in mind the night of our academy graduation. Unfortunately, my celebration was to be short-lived.

My boss, a gruff, no-nonsense sheriff, attended the ceremony along with his wife, who was also a no-nonsense gruff and never-smiling person. The sheriff sat beside me during the banquet, with his charming wife to his right, and we enjoyed a very pleasant conversation between bites of some pretty tasty food. Midway through the meal, during my suave and fascinating conversation, the high-sheriff, while alternating between shoveling forkfuls of red meat meat and potatoes into the opening in his face that sat squarely between a pair of sagging jowls, turned toward me to ask, “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name. Which department do you work for?”

After letting his surprising comments sink in for a quick moment, I realized he had no idea that I worked for him. I was one of his deputies. The latest model, actually. Freshly trained and well-exercised, and as eager to get to work as they come.

When I explained to my new boss that he was, in fact, my boss, he half-heartedly pretended that the whole thing had been a joke. Obviously, it was not. But I didn’t intend to waste the situation. Not at all.  Nope, I had his attention and I planned to make the most of it.

In fact, II took the opportunity to discuss my future—when I’d begin my field training program (upon completion of academy training officers then receive on-the-job, hands-on training while riding with a certified field training officer), how long before I’d make detective and/or possibly the second in command of the entire department, etc.

Well, he matter-of-factly brushed aside my lofty aspirations, gulped a big ole shot of straight bourbon, and calmly retrieved a folded sheet of paper from the inside pocket of his suit jacket. He then handed the paper—a copy of the patrol schedule—to me while reloading his beefy jowls with heaping forkfuls of red velvet cake.

The patrol schedule was the monthly assignment for the law enforcement deputies within his department—the police officers. All other deputies worked in the jail, courts, serving civil process, etc.. Then, between a couple of lip-smacking chews and another swallow of liquor, he said, “You’re working midnights, starting tonight.” I was both shocked and elated to learn that I’d hit the streets so quickly.

Everyone knows that midnight shift is normally considered the kiss of death. However, to a brand new rookie, even a graveyard shift assignment is as welcome and almost as exciting as a weekend at the Writers’ Police Academy. After all, you’re absolutely itching to bust the largest criminal enterprise known to cops worldwide.

But reality set in as I glanced at the clock on the wall, noticing that it was already nearly 10 p.m., and I hadn’t had any sleep. Didn’t matter, though. I was excited. Then the sheriff delivered even more “good” news. I’d be working the entire county, alone. A.L.O.N.E.

“What about my field training?” I said.

“No time. I’m short-handed,” he said. “If you run into any trouble call the state police. They’ll help out. Just don’t do anything stupid.”

The sheriff then stood, shook my hand, looked toward Mrs. Sheriff and nodded at the door. In another second they were gone, leaving me standing there holding the schedule in my hand. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be celebrating with my friends, but excited about going to work. But mostly, though, I was as nervous as a June bug at a chicken convention.

Two hours later I stood before a group of midnight shift dispatchers, jailers, and office staff. In all their years working there they’d never seen a “kid” fresh out of the academy hit the streets alone his first night out. I saw the fear in their eyes. I sensed the trepidation. I was flattered, of course, thinking they were worried about me, until I realized their concern was actually for the citizens of the county. I was their only defense against the evils of the world. And, as the sheriff’s office chain of command structure went, the ranking patrol deputy was in charge of the entire shift, jail included.

So yeah, I, on the job for only a matter of minutes, was in charge.

So I bid farewell to each of them and headed out into the dark and stormy night. Actually, it was a nice and bright late summer night. To me, though, it seemed as if I were a character in a bad novel with a really bad opening hook. “The deputy pushed open the door, determined to rid his county of evil zombies, mobsters, werewolves, and serial killers. Yes, he alone would save the world from death, doom, and destruction.”

My excitement was brimming over as I cruised the lonely, dark county roads, occasionally driving through well-lit parking lots, waving to night-shift clerks. I stopped in a few places to chat with employees and customers, but mostly my goal was to allow people to see me in my brand new uniform while driving my brand new patrol car with a brand new badge and name tag pinned to my chest. It was fun. I even played with the lights and siren a few times when I was on long, deserted stretches of roadway where I was sure no one was around to see or hear.

Then it happened. Two hours into my first shift, just when I felt as if I was riding on a cloud, I received my first call. “Fight in progress at Tommy Terrible’s Truck Stop. Weapons involved.” The fun melted from my face as quickly as a Kardashian can post an image to Instagram. It was lights and siren time for real.

So, as they say, I activated my emergency equipment (lights and siren) for real and soon turned into the truck stop parking lot where I saw what appeared (to me) to be two rather large dinosaurs going at it—fists swinging from every angle possible, and connecting with what appeared to be the force of the pile drivers used to construct bridges.

I sat there for a second with the engine idling, re-living the past several weeks of training. Hostage situation…check. Robberies…check. Kidnapping…check. Pursuit driving…check. Shooting range…check. Stepping between two monsters who’re engaged in the worst fight I’ve ever seen. Hmm … no class for that one.

I decided to drive my car as close to the pair as I could get, after calling the state police for assistance. (The closest trooper was twenty minutes away). Then I let off a nice blast from my siren. It worked. They stopped fighting and looked my way, so I stepped out of my car on legs that were quivering like a heaping mound of Jello during a California earthquake.

I attempted to talk to the two gentlemen since, at this point in my hours-long career, I had no clue if I should, or even could arrest either of them. So, and to protect my body from receiving a large number of painful injuries, I did the next best thing. I let one go inside the truck stop to have a cup of coffee, and I drove the other guy home.

On the way, I learned that it was his birthday and that he’d had a little too much to drink (duh). Being the quick thinker that I am, I jumped on the opportunity and told him that I’d let him off this time only because it was his birthday. However, the next time, well, I’d have to take him to jail. Sounded good to me, right? He didn’t need to know I was winging my way through this thing.

When I pulled up in front of the man’s modest trailer home, he shook my hand (his right hand, the equivalent of a giant oven mitt made of steel, gristle, and rhino hide, easily wrapped around mine) and thanked me for the ride and for not making him spend his birthday night in jail.

I waited as he worked his way around a variety of obstacles—rusted bicycles, an engine from a car that was nowhere to seen, home made plywood yard ornaments—a chubby woman bending over in the garden, a duck in a pole whose wings spun wildly in the wind, a life-size silhouette of a cowboy smoking a pipe—, an engine from a car that was nowhere to be seen, and a three-legged mixed breed dog attached to the mobile home by a logging chain.

He, the man, not the dog, used the back of a meaty fist to pound on the aluminum front door until the porch light, a yellow anti-bug lamp, switched on. A woman wearing a three-sizes-too-big NASCAR RULES t-shirt pushed open the door and immediately began to curse, between, of course, puffs on the unfiltered cigarette that dangled from her lips. I was amazed at how the cigarette clung to her lower lip even as she opened her mouth to yell. Finally, he gave her a slight shove and they both disappeared inside the metal box they called home. I exhaled, and then spent the next few hours patrolling the county while thinking of various defensive tactics techniques and drawing the mace container from my gun belt.

Probably not the prettiest conclusion to my first call, but it was a solution that actually paid off for me many times in the years to follow. You see, the guy I took home (I didn’t know it at the time) was an exceptionally good street fighter, a sort of legend in that area among the local police because it normally took four or five officers to handcuff and arrest him. At the time, I did not know how lucky I’d been.

Since that night, I’d been called to numerous fight scenes where this fellow had pummeled his opponents, smashing their bloody faces into barroom floors, walls, and tables all across the county and city. He’d sent a few police officers to the emergency room for various cuts, bruises, and broken body parts. He’d even tossed one rather large bouncer through a glass door. But, whenever I showed up he simply stopped fighting and walked to my car where he’d have a seat, ready for the drive to the county jail.

I guess the big man felt as if he owed me for not arresting him on his birthday. However, those easy-going feelings later changed, and that night, when he decided quite forcefully to not allow me to arrest him, was the night I introduced his forehead to my metal flashlight.

So that was my first night on the job. How was yours?